“Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”’
Matthew 26:6-9, ESV
Chapter 26 is the beginning of the end. This chapter sets up the last week of Jesus which without question his prime purpose of death and resurrection. Matthew sets up this “Anointing at Bethany” as the front door of this final week. The immediate verses prior to this concern themselves with an organized plot by the Jewish leadership to murder Jesus.
There are things to consider:
- Simon (the leper), Jesus stayed here sometime during his last days. Had Simon been healed by Jesus? He might even be a carrier of this fearsome disease. And even if he didn’t, the stigma was so ingrained his first name was attached to the appellation “the leper.”
- the value of the perfume was essentially unheard of. (You might have given a tin of the most expensive caviar to a homeless man– it was that shocking.) The calculations have been done and the perfume would have been worth $30,000. And this was no ordinary perfume– it was an ointment, a concentrate from which lesser perfumes would be made. This was the real stuff.
- the disciples, are quite disturbed. They quickly deduced the value of this anointing, and balked. Scripture says, “they were indignant.” Deeply offended, they could not process what was really going on in front of them. They were quietly livid.
- the wasted potential of the perfume. A years wages could of been given away to the needy. Passover was the special time when everyone saw to the needs of the poor, and scripture says a lot about helping the poor. It didn’t sit too well with the disciples to empty this flask over Jesus head and feet.
- the effect on Jesus would’ve been profound. It was God’s signal of an impending death. Because this was more an ointment than a liquid, its effect would have lingered for weeks. It is quite possible that Jesus would’ve smelled that smell while he was being beaten and crucified. I have to believe it encouraged him, as he suffered.
The disciples really missed it with this one. The practical thing would take Mary’s expensive jar and sell it, and then to give the money to a needy family. Disciples throughout history have confused discipleship with serving and doing, but it really is concerned with a person of Jesus Christ. This really is a crucial point.
We serve a person, not a “discipleship.” We pour out ourselves for Jesus, serving him as out “first love.” Without this love we just become a good religion, among many good religions. But our sacrifice for Jesus does indeed set us apart.
Be extravagant in your love to him. Jesus should always be the center. As your love pours out over him, I have to believe it perfumes heaven with your gift.